Fulbright Interview Experience & Tips
It is a lengthy one so make sure you read everything. It is important for you.
So, this one is about my Fulbright Interview experience. Please ignore the grammatical mistakes and typing errors. It was a long document and I didn’t have time to read what I wrote.
My interview was on 23rd, and I got a call a week before the interview. Also in the email, there are one or two forms that you need to fill and send back to them ASAP (usually they expect the response within 24 hours). Also, you would need to register for TOEFL as early as you get the call because the seats will fill up quite quickly before you expect. TRUST ME, register yourself ASAP after you get the interview call. Your TOEFL registration date MUST be within two weeks after your INTERVIEW DATE. So you get like two weeks to prepare for your TOEFL exam which is more than enough in my opinion if you follow the right resources.
Make sure you are well prepared for some basic questions. Well prepared means you have a short and complete sentence in your mind about that question.
TIP: They don’t like long answers. Be short and precise.
The questions you should consider can be:
1. Introduce yourself
2. What is your major field of study?
3. Why you chose his field?
4. Why do you want higher education?
5. What will you do after your degree?
6. Why the USA?
7. Why Fulbright?
8. Why these specific universities? (if you have mentioned preferences in your application)
9. How will your Ph.D. or MS contribute for Pakistan?
10. Do you know about US culture?
11. What difficulties are you expecting to encounter?
12. Can you adjust there?
13. Do you have any publication?
14. What it is about?
15. What results did you deduce from your (they will pick up any from your CV) research?
16. How much experience do you have?
17. What was your job at (any XYZ from your CV)?
Don’t worry you won’t be asked this much. It is just the common questions that you might encounter and then you should go through all the documents you submitted which include but is not limited to
1. Your Fulbright application as a whole
2. Your essays in particular
3. Your CV
4. Your publications
5. Your work experience
6. Your ongoing research (if any)
It is better to try and answer these questions to a friend or sibling, this will increase your confidence.
You will have to answer all questions in ENGLISH, so be prepared for that.
Last but not the least make sure you have a GOOD SLEEP before your interview day. Especially for those who will be traveling to Islamabad.
ARRIVAL AT USEFP:
At my time I didn’t know that interviews happen in batches so I thought I should reach half an hour earlier than my reporting time, but you should not that. If your reporting time is 12, make sure you reach around 12 and not earlier as you still will have to wait for an hour before the process starts. You can also reach within half hour of your reporting time.
First, you will go through security checking and you will switch off your mobile phones and submit them at the counter to take the visitor’s card. Then you will sit there till your reporting time (girls wait inside whereas boys have to sit outside, so do not try to reach too early). After that, you will be asked to place your bags in the locker and you can only take your academic documents and your locker keys with you.
You will not go to the room where you gave your GRE test, there a second building beside that. You will enter that building and again wait for some time. There were 20 aspirants in each interview batch last year. When all aspirants will be in the room you will be given some paperwork to do. One will have some general questions about some community work, and if you have relatives in the US or not. Please make sure to answer it similar to the one you did in your application.
Also, you will be given an essay to write and I think 15 minutes. The purpose of this essay is not to judge your knowledge but to match your writing style. My batch was given the topic:
“What was the biggest social movement of the last century?”
So it can be any current affairs of Pakistan studies related topic. Just think for a couple of minutes and then start writing whatever comes to your mind.
You will see American panelists entering the room. There will be two panels going on simultaneously, so each panel interviews 10 people. Make sure you don’t have any other plans after your interview as you will be spending a good 4 hours in USEFP at least. Especially for those whose turn will come late. A name and that person will have to sit separately on a chair that is away from the main table and near to the interview rooms. Then that person will be called inside. On the panel, there were 4 people, 2 from Pakistan and 2 from the US.
MY INTERVIEW PANEL:
My interview panel consisted of two female Pakistani panelists and two male US panelists. None of whom understood my field.
TIP: do not use technical terms specific to your field in your answers. Try to be more general and use layman terms. Try to show the benefit of your work rather than going deep into the technicalities.
When I was told to sit in that chair, yes panic started to hit me. But just cool your nerves and say everything is going to be alright. When I entered the room there was a person sitting separately behind my chair and 4 people (as described earlier) were sitting in front of me. They all introduced themselves and one of said that I am going to set the timer for 15 minutes because that’s how long will be the interview and he started the clock.
Q: Introduce yourself. A: I deviated from the norms by not saying that my name is blab la and I am doing my MS from
etc., instead I said that all the academic information about me is within your hands so I will introduce myself as a responsible daughter, a caring sister, and a sincere friend.
I might not remember the order of the questions but I will share which questions I remembered.
Q: Why Fulbright? A: This was the first opportunity that came and secondly the US was a pioneer in my field of research, so that is why.
NOTE: My answers here could be different from what I actually said there, but the essence is the same. Wordings might have been different.
Q: what is your field? A: I described my field and then explained in layman terms about its advantages as they had no idea about my field.
Then there was a question about my experience from my application.
Q: Why do you want to do Ph.D.?
Q: What would you do after degree completion?
Q: How will your Ph.D. help Pakistan? A: I focused my answer on the gap filling between academia and industry.
Then there were a few questions about my publication which was related to my BS project.
Q: How much do you know about American culture?
Q: Well then how will you adjust there? A: I supported my answer by sharing my MS experience of getting along people from all the provinces.
And I think this was it. Then the timer rang. These 15 minutes passed by real quick. To pass the time sitting outside is very difficult.
I thought at that time that I could have done better. I was not satisfied with my interview at all. People who came out before me has smiling faces and they seemed very satisfied. However, none of those candidates received the letter and Alhamdulillah I did and that too as a Principal Candidate. So I have not yet understood their criterion of selection so I will advise answering everything correctly. If you don’t know a thing or you don’t have any quality, just admit that. They want a candidate who is willing to learn, not the one who already knows everything.
Lastly, by actually living here I have learned that they highly support those people who accept their flaws, who know their area of improvement because we all are human beings and we all do mistakes. It takes a huge amount of courage to accept where you are wrong and they highly support that.
I hope I have covered everything. If you have any questions ask in the comments section but please don’t ask questions like “I have xyz profile so what are the chances if selection” I cannot answer that.
Note: If you want to improve your chances of success, do take a mock interview with Scholar Den founder Faisal Khan, he has over 90% success rate in the last few years.